St. John, Virgin Islands – Your tropical wedding destination dream come true, where family and friends can share your union while enjoying a vacation in the sun. St. John, nicknamed Love City, (What could be more auspicious?) offers some of the most memorable wedding options in the world. VOGUE magazine named St. John a top destination for 2016, and who can argue with VOGUE?
Set The Date
Yes, it’s always sunny in the islands but we have a rainy season and our tranquil blue waters can become a maelstrom of treacherous waves and high winds during storms. A soaking wet wedding dress and your decorations whipping in the wind is probably not what you envisioned for your special day. It all comes down to what kind of weather you are comfortable dealing with.
Summer Season: June – November, also considered our LOW SEASON. During this time the weather can be very sticky and humid with frequent rain. It’s important to understand that this is HURRICANE SEASON. Pricing for travel and lodging are at their lowest, but many businesses are closed in September and October. It also means that occupancy is low but that can fluctuate depending on holidays and airline specials.
Winter Season: November – April, also or HIGH SEASON. Many people come to St. John to get away from the snow and chilly weather. Expect airfares and accommodations to get pretty pricey. The plus side is that during this time there is little to no rain paired with a consistent island breeze.
The season also plays a major role not only in your own budget but those of your guests. Remember to be considerate of the cost for family and friends.
There are many companies that offer services from simple recommendations to walking you step by step through the entire process from “yes” to “I do”. Some businesses have been around for decades, others are still new, but everyone offers you something special. Take your time and shop around. Make sure you do your research because it’s very important your planner understands exactly what you need.
There are dozens of planners to choose from, but here are a few to start your search:
St. John Weddings by Anne Marie Porter
A St. John resident for over 33 years, wedding coordinator and officiant Anne Marie Porter has married thousands of couples from all over the world. Anne Marie keeps it simple, reasonably priced, and personalized. Her intention is for you to have a meaningful, stress free wedding experience.
Although not full service, for only $400 Anne Marie offers:
- Your personalized marriage ceremony by Anne Marie.
- Your gorgeous St John wedding location.
- Two certified copies of your certificate of marriage from The Superior Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Recommendations for everything you may want (photographer, videographer, musician, florist, beauty salon, caterer, restaurant, jeep rental, place to stay, etc.)
- Unlimited consultation
What To Do Review: The spirit of Love!! Anne Marie is truly enlightened and it shows. Her full packages are the most affordable on the island. Anne Marie offers a free marriage vow renewal ceremony for hundreds of couples every Valentine’s Day on Trunk Bay Beach.
Island Bliss Weddings by Janelle Scott
For brides planning a huge affair for hundreds of loved ones or for the eloping couple that wants a private beach ceremony. Janelle understands that you want your day to uniquely reflect your own style and love.
What To Do Review: Show your style and flair. Janelle does it all, from traditional to food trucks & fire dancers, make your wedding stand out from the rest.
Island Style Weddings by Mary Castle Bartolucci
Mary has designed elegant celebrations since 2002. Mary Castle Bartolucci offers full service wedding coordination and design.
What To Do Review: Pure elegance. Mary is your planner for a storybook wedding. These are weddings to melt a mother’s heart!
Location, Location, Location!
One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make is where you will hold your ceremony and reception. With so many options, let’s break it down to make your choices a little easier:
Here on St. John, most of our beaches offer crystal clear waters and pearly white sand which will provide you with some of the most picture perfect backdrops ever. Approximately 60% of this beautiful island is National Park, so if you choose a beach as your location keep in mind that you must acquire a permit. For more information on permits through The Virgin Islands National Park follow this link.
If you do decide to use a planner, rest assured that most planners already have the permits needed for the use of The Virgin Islands National Park. A planner’s permits will probably cover independent wedding professionals like photographers too. It is still a good idea to inquire about what procedures they followed to secure the location and who is covered. Better safe than sorry. Starting your life together with a big fine to pay is no fun!
A lot of couples opt for a luxurious villa as their location. For villa weddings, keep these few things in mind:
1) A villa offers a beautiful setting for a wedding with protection from the elements in the event of inclement weather.
2) Villas eliminate the expense of paying for both a wedding site and accommodations.
Make sure to inquire with the rental manager prior to booking to see if the villa can be used to have your wedding. Some villas have restrictions.
If you receive approval for your wedding, make sure to ask:
- How many people are allowed in the villa.
- How much parking is available.
- What are the restrictions for loud music or noise.
- Is there any other important information about the villa that you need to know to make your wedding day go smoothly.
On St. John, you have several chapels in which to be wed. Here are a few of our favorites:
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
Centrally located in Cruz Bay, this church is ideal for large Catholic families. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church offers friendly, welcoming parishioners; beautiful masses; and spirited music featuring steel pan and an excellent choir. The chapel itself is serene with beautiful stained glass windows.
Nazareth Lutheran Church
Literally steps from the ferry dock, the Nazareth Lutheran Church couldn’t be more central. Steeped in history, the charming chapel was built in 1717 (oddly, it says 1720 over the door. One of history’s mysteries.) and looks exactly as one would imagine an island church to look like.
St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church
Modern in design, this friendly house of worship is a local favorite.
For a complete list of churches, click here.
Many people visit our islands to see the ruins. You will need a permit to hold a gathering at Annaberg and Catherineberg. Susannaberg is privately owned. Here are the most frequently used ruins for a wedding:
Annaberg Sugar Plantation
Annaberg is a former Danish sugar mill and plantation featuring ruins rich in tradition and history. Annaberg Plantation, as of 1780, was one of 25 active sugar producing factories on St. John. With parking and some infrastructure, this ruin provides comfort while rich in history.
For a luxury experience, Caneel Bay Resort offers ruins with five-star service.
With no amenities, this is a perfect site for a bohemian style wedding. Catherineberg is host to the monthly full moon parties where drummers and fire dancers cavort under the stars. The windmill was constructed around 1820. It is the only windmill on St. John and St. Thomas to feature a vaulted lower level.
Newest on the wedding site scene and only recently rentable, Susannaberg is a great pick for a unique and stylish wedding. Host to the annual Reggae in the Ruins and a monthly movie night, the rolling lawns, picnic tables and parking at this location make it one of the most convenient ruins for ceremonies and receptions.
So now that we’ve begun our planning, it’s time for you to start your research. Remember, take your time and choose what makes you comfortable and happy. This is your day and it’s going to be the BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!
Keep your eyes open for Part Two in the series Planning Your Wedding in the Virgin Islands.
About Gyasi Liburd
Growing up on the island of St. John and now raising my 3 kids here, I am still amazed every day by its beauty. One of the best feelings in the world is to be able to quickly escape to a wonderful view of the ocean, sit under the sun and enjoy the calmness, peace and tranquility. Yes, I love my island!
I have a wide breadth of experience in all facets of the tourism industry. I’ve worked in the villa management business, the ferry business, the retail business and now for one of the biggest grocery store businesses on St. John. I’ve learned that in a second its possible to meet the greatest people you will ever meet on the planet. Everyone has a story and I love hearing them all!
I hope to share my stories and experiences as a Virgin Islander and give you a glimpse of what its like to live and raise a family here. Please ask me questions in the comment sections and I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly.